Surfboard carver Jess Santorik is making waves at Te Papa store

Surfboard carver Jess Santorik’s first exhibition at Raglan Arts Weekend has paid dividends with an opportunity to show her work at Te Papa Store.

Exhibiting out of her garage on Wallis St, she joined the 2019 arts weekend with some trepidation.
“I really wasn’t sure at first if people would even come,” she says.
She and partner Eligh transformed their garage into a gallery, got busy with signage and her first RAW exhibition was a great success with lots of visitors and sales of her Māori-inspired surfboard carvings.

And to add to that success Jess was visited by the Te Papa Store buyer looking for artwork to match the store’s new Matariki theme.

The piece chosen Nehutai /Sea Spray tells the story of Tangaroa, creator of waves and God of the sea – sending swells to the east and west coast of Aotearoa.
“Each line represents a new swell barreling through the lineup, with each hand plaited braid symbolising the offshore sea spray blessing our shores.”

More than a million people from around the world visit New Zealand’s national museum every year and the store is one of the first places they see when they step inside.
“It’s so huge to have so many people going through and seeing my work,” she says.

Jess draws her inspiration from her passion for the sea, surfing, culture and all things Māori, and each piece tells a story.
Using recycled raw polyurethane surfboards, Jess sources her materials from surfboard manufacturers from around New Zealand and overseas.

As well as carving the larger traditional shaped surfboards, she also does smaller pieces using the broken bits of boards.

A world-class surfer, Jess was inspired and taught by legendary surfboard carver Aaron Kereopa.
“I’ve remember seeing him at a surf comp, I was so bored waiting for my heats so I would go and watch him work. I’ve always been really curious about art and carving and I was just an annoying little grommet asking him lots questions,” she says.
That was 2004, and Aaron took the ‘annoying grommet’ under his wing, gave her some tips and sent her on her way.

The former Raglan Area School student has been a keen artist for as long as she can remember and says she had the best art teacher in Tania Mills.
She now uses the painting skills she learned at school to add depth to her carvings.
“I really like how painting really shows up the carving.”

Over the years, Jess has dipped in and out of the carving – travelling for surfing competitions and then motherhood (she’s mum to three-year-old Katja) consumed a lot of her time so it’s not until the last couple of years that she has committed 100 percent.

“I decided after having Katja I felt like it was time to really follow my passion and see where it takes me. So, I slowly stepped into it and then the Raglan Arts Weekend really got me going.”

Janine Jackson